"My heart knit-purl, knit-purls the
- Hope Anita Smith, "hand made", Greetings
from Knit Café
An unexpected conversation with Hope Anita Smith rearranged my
calendar. My scheduled essay--"Lost and Found Knits"--has been
rescheduled. Instead Hope's story will be my after-Valentine's Day
valentine to you. Non-caloric and Weight Watcher friendly. A story
about a knitter who gives out valentines to the world. All year round.
I met Hope at a children's book writer's retreat I attended
But it wasn't until we both began our long journey home that I finally
had a chance to talk with her. At the airport, at our gate’s shared
waiting area, with an ear tuned to announcements about our impending
flights, we chatted about writing until we realized our other mutual
passion: knitting. Immediately, we started talking faster. There was a
lot of ground to cover before our planes would board.
I showed Hope my new book, A
Knitter's Home Companion. She told me she
was in a knitting book, too: Greetings
from the Knit Café. I knew that
book. I could even picture her in it. Then we noticed another knitter
sitting nearby, smiling at us. We paused to admire the colorful Kristin
Nichols shawl she was stitching. This might have remained just another
pleasant knitting encounter if Hope hadn't mentioned the scarves she
knit for this trip. Eighteen of them. Wrapped in tulle with a ribbon on
either end. She called them neck candy.
"I give them away," Hope told me. "Gifts for the flight attendants."
handmade card with poem or word of appreciation for what they do is
tucked inside. Valentines. Hope's careful to bring enough for each leg
But wait, there's more. Rummaging through her Mary Poppins'-sized
purse, Hope pulled out a bouquet of the handmade cards. She hands these
valentines to "cashiers at the grocery store, hostesses at restaurants,
parking attendants, cab drivers, coat checkers, etc. Sometimes in
California, sometimes New York. About 100 a year." She's done that for
ten years now.
Hope always gives away the handmade--a journal, a watercolor, a
and, of course, her hand-knits. Currently she's making linen washcloths
to be paired with a bar of store-bought soap. For another a flight
later this winter, she has already "tucked away" seven neck warmers.
The airport in Burlington, Vermont, where we sat that last day in
January is very much like airports everywhere with uncomfortable seats,
bad coffee, loud cell phone conversations, and other unwanted noise.
But Hope's majestic appearance, her radiant smile, and her soulful
tales of handmade giving cast a magical warmth to our sterile port of
passage. After all, it appeared I was sitting next to a fairy
When Hope's flight was finally announced, we hugged a goodbye.
knitting through the snowy evening, from Vermont to Michigan and on
back to Iowa, I thought about her. When husband Rody drove me home from
the Cedar Rapids airport, I told him about Hope.
"Lovely," he said. And navigating slowly through the dark and
cautiously avoiding slippery patches, concentrating on the road, I
could tell that he, too, was touched by her story.
A few days later, I was still thinking about Hope and her year-round
valentines. "What does it mean to you?" I asked her in an email.
"It gives me great joy to surprise people with a little bit of love."
Hope wrote back. "I want each person to feel special in that moment.
This was handmade for you. You matter."
We matter. Lovely, indeed.
Every knitter has a story. And each knitter's story brings us into
their knitting world. Their chapters help us grow our own sense of the
vast potential our needles can do for others. Let us inscribe Hope
Anita Smith and her random acts of knitting kindness in the enormous
book of big-hearted knitters. Next to her name, let's paste a
constellation of gold stars to add to her glittering literary awards.
May she inspire us all to reach new vistas of generosity.
Hope Anita Smith. Valentines to the world. All year round.